Why do universities dislike Republicans so much?
Writing at Salon last year, Sean McElwee and Robbie Hiltonsmith analyzed a Grapevine study from Illinois State University and found “when Republicans take over governor’s mansions they reduce spending on higher education by $0.23 per $1,000 in personal income (a measure of the state’s total tax base). Each 1 percent increase in the number of Republicans in the legislature leads to a $0.05 decrease.” As Larry Sabato of the University of Virginia told U.S. News & World Report, “Most GOP elected officials believe that universities are hotbeds of Democratic support—and the voting patterns in most college precincts support this.”
You know, a lot of faculty are pragmatic, moderate, mainstream Americans who would not be averse to a cautiously conservative government — but the Republicans have evolved into education-hating radicals. The voting patterns in college precincts reflect the contempt of the Republican party right back at them.
But just the overall statistics aren’t quite as strong a punch in the gut as the personal attacks on education and science and investment in the future exhibited in these two states:
During the Great Recession, virtually all states cut their higher education funding. But since the low point in 2009-10, states have raised their higher ed funding by an average of 10 percent. Wisconsin, on the other hand, has cut its spending by 4 percent. The day before Governor Scott Walker announced his candidacy for president, he signed a budget cut of $250 million for Wisconsin public universities. (He wanted to cut $300 million, but the legislature wouldn’t go that far.) He also wanted to gut the La Follette-era “Wisconsin Idea,” such that the university system’s mission was no longer “the search for truth” but “to meet the state’s workforce needs”—proposed changes that Walker unbelievably blamed on a “drafting error.”
Something similar occurred in Louisiana under another Republican governor who made a failed bid for the White House in 2016. “The scope of Louisiana’s disinvestment is both startling and unique,” mourned The Advocate of Baton Rouge. “Louisiana … according to national surveys, has cut higher education funding more than any other state since the slowdown began. State aid to universities here has been slashed by 55 percent.” At the start of the recession, Louisiana covered 60 percent of university expenses; under Jindal, it fell to 25 percent, with tuition rising accordingly.
Why do Republicans hate America? Why do Republicans want to destroy science?